Using Drones to Transport Blood to Hospitals

One of the most vital resources for countless hospitals world wide comes from the blood and tissue donations that are collected through organizations like the Red Cross.  It is hard enough for these blood drive centers to draw people in to make a donation, but what is sometimes even harder is getting these donations to to the locations they are needed.  Once a donation has been collected it has to be kept at a specific temperature and delivered to a hospital in a small window of time.  For high risk emergency situations this would require a hospital to send out a helicopter for retrieval, a very costly procedure.  For more day to day situations, hospitals rely on delivery from regular ground delivery companies.

For example, UPS has a medical delivery branch of their massive delivery system.  Their drivers are tasked with transporting blood and tissue samples from collection centers to hospitals on a daily basis.  Unfortunately the process if flawed.  Because the drivers are often stuck in traffic, the deliveries can take upwards of 30 minutes.  In situations where to save a life, time is of the essence this can cause serious problems.  UPS, along with a drone technology company called Matternet, have come up with a solution.

Using a small autonomous drone UPS will now be able to make these critical deliveries in about 3 minutes at a fraction of the cost!   Matternet’s M2 quadopter is about 2 feet square.  It can carry packages of about 5 pounds over a distance of 12.5 miles before needing to be recharged.  The package is securely attached to the underside of the drone that is locked to prevent theft.  Though the drones fly autonomously, a licensed pilot is there to oversee the flight at all times.  If a situation were to arise, the pilot can remotely intervene to safely complete the mission.

Since August of last year UPS and Matternet have been testing the program in North Carolina in conjunction with regulations put forth by the FAA.  In April, 2019, the first official runs of this new system took place in Raleigh, NC at WakeMed Hospital.  The drones will be able to make up to ten flights a day.  This will drastically improve the results that doctors can give their patients.  The FAA has implemented a three year testing program to find ways of safely using drones in commercial air space.  With Matternet’s success, both in North Carolina and Switzerland, this program is off to a great start.

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